London weekend continued

I’m keeping the rest of the London weekend travel report shorter, it’s really mostly about sharing pictures.

On Sunday, Bro and I walked the south bank in London, from London Bridge to Westminster. We walked through Borough food market, later stopped for drinks, popped in at the giftshop at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where my brother got my kids fun t-shirts (to be shared later on in this post) and we browsed through a book market.

On Monday morning, I relaxed in my brother’s garden (he lives in the downstairs garden flat and has sole access to that garden), we then went on to Highgate cemetery where some noteworthy people are buried, most famously Karl Marx. It was quite fitting that we should visit his grave on May 1st, Labour Day. Other famous people are buried there as well, like actor Corin Redgrave (who played Anne Eliot’s father in the 1995 Persuasion), sculptor Anna Mahler (also daughter of composer Gustav Mahler), Douglas Adams (author of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), the slab of stone where the lettering has all but faded belongs to actor Ralph Richardson (peer of John Gielgud and other British actors in mid 20th centruy movies). It’s a pity it has become all but illegible, the picture on Wikipedia shows better lettering. I also include pictures of a few other graves that just looked interesting.

After Highgate, my brother and I stopped for a pub meal (too late for lunch, too early for dinner, but it was good!) before he dropped me off at the airport again.

When I got home, the kids got their Shakespeare t-shirts…

It was really wonderful to get away like that and have so much time to catch up with my brother. I’m already looking forward to the next London trip.

A Saturday in London

I had another glorious stay in London this past weekend, visiting with my brother who lives there.

I flew out last Friday evening. It was cloudy but the view from above the clouds was really beautiful. I could already feel the worries in life just disappear into to the background, hidden somewhere underneath the clouds.

I even had the luxury of my brother picking me up from the airport and we spent the rest of the evening catching up.

Bro had plans for Saturday during the day and I asked him how I could best get to ‘Little Venice’ from his place on my own. I had read and heard about it but in all my visits to London, I’d never been and I was curious to see the canal with those famous narrowboats. He suggested that if I didn’t mind a bit of a walk, I could walk there from his house. Regent’s Park is only a 10-15 minute walk from where he lives and from there all I needed to do was follow the canal. And so I did and what a beautiful experience it was! Even more so because the weather was cheerful and sunny that day.

I got to Regent’s Park (passing some villa’s along the way – wow!) and quickly found the path next to the canal. The route was beautiful and made even more special as an occasional narrowboat passed me by. There were also some stately houses along the canal path route, with one such house having the most immaculately mowed lawn I have ever seen in my life. As I came into a more residential area, the narrowboats were moored along the sides of the canal. I eventually got to Little Venice and found that there was a boating festival going on, the 40th IWA Canalway Cavalcade. A moored narrowboat restaurant was serving cream teas, they had a spot for one, and so I jumped at the chance to eat scones, drink tea and just have a wonderful time looking out the window at all the boats (click on images to enlarge).

I walked around after that, watched the boating parade, there was a crafts market and there was music. It was such a glorious afternoon!

At the end of the afternoon I made my way to the westend, to the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue to meet up with my brother. We were going to see the play of To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Matthew Modine.

As we made our way to find a quick bite to eat, we passed by the stage door entrance to The Gielgud, and who should we happen to see but Matthew Modine himself, who had apparently just finished a matinee and was outside talking to some audience members!

We walked on and found a place to get takeaway wok noodles (with duck and veggies for me, and beef and veggies for him) and ate them in the sunshine at a table in the garden/park of a nearby church…

At 7 pm To Kill a Mockingbird started and at the end I even snuck in a picture of the curtain call…

I was so happy to see the play and it was also unexpectedly very funny in places too. The staging was clever and the telling was nicely done from daughter Scout’s point of view. I loved that they kept her as the narrator, Dill was very funny and endearing, and Calpurnia was more vocal about the racism issues than I ever remembered her being in the book. For me the biggest twist was on the issue of empathy and “walking in someone else’s shoes” to understand them. In this play the question arose as to how far empathy should really be extended, something I never really got to that extent from the book. It was all more explicit in this play. Other aspects of the story weren’t even touched upon in the play, which was a bit of a pity but I get it, there is only so much time. The focus seemed to be mostly on the character development of Atticus, which is fine, but I missed some of Jem’s and Scout’s development. Also, Atticus felt a little different, maybe a bit less heroic than he seems in the book. To me that echoes Go Set a Watchman a bit, the follow up from Mockingbird, in which Atticus is more fallible and also shows his own prejudices. As always, food for thought, but also (sadly) this still feels very topical for the world today.

Matthew Modine was a good Atticus, although he couldn’t beat Gregory Peck in that role for me. And really, no adaptation, not even the Peck film, can beat the actual book for me. I thought Anna Mundin made a very good Scout, Ellis Howard was really noteworthy as Dill, Cecilia Noble was good as the no-nonsense Calpurnia and Jason Hughes was really good as creepy Tom Ewell. This is an adaptation of one of my fave books ever. Even though it was somewhat different, I enjoyed it and am so glad I got to see it!

Afterwards, Bro and I wandered to the stage door, and sure enough, Matthew Modine was there again. It was nowhere near as busy as the Richard Armitage stage doors that I’ve been to but there were some fans there and we watched him interact with them. A young girl, maybe 12 years old, was overwhelmed at seeing him (did he do a youth show?) and he was so sweet to her and hugged her. He handed out cards of the play that he had signed himself with a gold pen and Bro insisted I get a picture with him as well, which I did.

That Saturday in London was just such a perfect day. It was filled with such lovely surprises, from the beautiful walk, to the cream tea on a narrowboat, to the boat festival, the lovely takeaway dinner in the sun, to the play and even briefly meeting the star of the play. This one will definitely stick in my memory for a long time.

A London trip

My daughter and I are back home again after a long weekend away in London. It’s a little trip we made as we await her final exams results. We booked it for this past weekend as Monday was a holiday here (Pentecost), I had also worked a little extra to compensate for taking Friday off as well and we flew out Thursday evening.

We had been told to get to Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) three hours ahead of time as there have been big delays at security due to staff shortages. As I finished work early on Thursday, we decided to leave sooner and just have a little extra time. In hindsight absolutely not necessary; we got through security 16 minutes after arriving at the airport by train! That included getting to security, an extra search of both our small suitcases (apparently Dutch cheese can be mistaken for explosives!) and an extra pat down for my daughter. We figured we’d have enough time to get dinner but several restaurants were closed and in the end all we had were very overpriced sandwiches. To add to the endless wait our flight to London Gatwick turned out to be delayed by an hour and a half! After killing over 5 hours at the airport, we finally departed…

… and didn’t land in Gatwick till close to midnight. When we got off the plane we were stuck behind locked doors at the end of a hall for another 15 minutes, before they were apologetically opened and we could proceed on to passport control. That meant that the train we had planned on taking wasn’t running anymore and the underground we were supposed to connect to wasn’t running anymore either. We were lucky to find a train into London, then were able to switch to a nightbus and finally got to my brother’s house in Hampstead at just after 2 am. Things did get better after that.

On Friday it was my brother’s birthday. His 18 year old daughter, my niece, was home for the weekend (studying for her final exams that she’s in the middle of right now) and had arranged a delicious birthday cake for him…

…we had brought a few gifts and after the little celebration, my daughter and I went into town. First walking to Camden market, about 20 minutes away from where my brother lives. We went into this huge, trendy fashion store, Cyberdog, where an actual DJ was playing music and I was very tempted to buy a smiley t-shirt (if only they had had it in old lady large sizes!)…

We then took the underground to Central London and walked around Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown, we walked up The Mall until we got to a closure, so we couldn’t get closer to Buckingham Palace than in the pictures below. We hadn’t realized it at the time when we booked, but our trip coincided with the Queen’s 70 year Jubilee and as you can see, boy was London crowded, with flags everywhere.

At the end of the afternoon we were quite pooped. We ducked into St. James’s park, just off The Mall, and along with so many others, rested and relaxed on the grass for about an hour before we were due to meet my brother and my niece for a nice birthday dinner at a delicious Turkish restaurant. As a surprise my niece had also arranged to have some friends and her maternal granddad come to the restaurant and we had a really nice birthday dinner for my brother there.

The next day was Tower Bridge day for mini-me and I. We decided on a very late warm lunch (mini-me picked Five Guys with view on Tower Bridge) so we wouldn’t have to deal with that in the evening when we had other plans. We walked along the South Bank for a while, then went on to Westminster for a quick look, ending the afternoon by taking a bus back to my brother’s house to drop off our bags.

In the evening we stopped by Covent Garden and ate simple crepes before heading to the theatre to watch Mamma Mia. The musical was a lot of fun! They asked the audience to not sing along to the songs during the show but to wait for the end. Then indeed, during the finale in no time everyone was was up and clapping, dancing and singing along. It was joyous.

Afterwards we walked on to Leicester Square, took the underground to Camden and met up with my brother and niece to go clubbing in a club my niece had heard of but never been to. My niece and daughter had been talking about wanting to do that, to see how we ‘old people’ would fare. They just couldn’t imagine that when we were younger my brother and I had gone to dance clubs together as well. While we were on the dancefloor my brother admitted to me that the last time he’d been out to a club to dance was maybe 10 years ago and I think that may be pretty much as long since I’ve been to one as well (a 1980s night, if I recall correctly). I think the girls wanted to see us go all out and get drunk but while we all did have a few drinks, no one went that far. My daughter did learn that she likes a gin & tonic (my brother’s drink) and my niece learned that she liked the taste of Baileys (my drink)…

For the next day (Sunday) mini-me and I had planned to spend a few hours in the Victoria and Albert museum and then also walk through nearby Harrods. As the previous night had gotten very late and we slept in long, we had to make a choice as both would be closing at 5 pm and we wouldn’t be getting there until 2 or so. This was mini-me’s trip and she picked Harrods. We walked around, wowed by prices and oppulence (not only in Harrods but also in the cars you see outside in the nearby streets) and as we were quite tired, we ended up in a nearby pub where we had a pie (me) and a burger (she). We were getting a little chilly and our feet were quite exhausted from all the walking and dancing we’d been doing, so we opted for an early evening movie at the cinema close to my brother’s house (while he was driving my niece back to school in Cambridge at that time), away from the crowds in the city. We watched the Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum film The Lost City. Not great, not terrible, just enjoyable light fare for our exhausted feet and minds.

On Monday, our final day in London arrived. My brother worked from home while mini-me and I decided to go to Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. We had wanted to try the V&A museum, but there was a strike by underground stations staff and we figured it best to avoid the underground altogether that day. We took the bus to Kenwood House, had a scone and some tea there (and mini-me fed a little robin) and walked around Kenwood House. We then went back to where my brother lives, walked around the neighbourhood there (and past Emma Thompson’s house, which is maybe 20 minutes away on foot from where my brother lives – her house isn’t in the pictures I share here) and did some last minute pre-packaged scones and Jubilee magazine (for my mother) shopping before heading back.

My brother drove us to Luton airport for our return flight and we got there two and a half hours before time. Again we were lucky: no long queues for security and we were through pretty quickly. We had enough time to actually sit down for a dinner. Then, after dinner, we got the news that our 8 pm flight to Amsterdam had been canceled, like so many other flights had been recently! Our only option was a flight home the next day, on Tuesday afternoon at just after 4 pm! We also had to book our own hotel for the night that they said would get refunded (it made more sense for us to book a nearby hotel than to travel all the way to my brother and then back again the next day). I immediately got on to and found the closest still availabe hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk away.

When we got to the hotel the lady at the desk was telling other stranded passengers who had also just booked on their phones that the hotel was overbooked! I started checking other hotels while we waited, just in case, but there were no vacancies anywhere near where we were. When it was our turn we were lucky, there was a room available for us after all (and in the end for those two women who had been ahead of us as well, it turned out). Mini-me and I eased the pain with a Smirnoff with coke for her and a Baileys for me and I had to get in touch with work, letting them know I wouldn’t be there on Tuesday. We were also able to arrange a late check out of the hotel for the next day, and after refreshments, made our way back to the airport and finally flew home again yesterday afternoon.

Despite the weird end with a canceled flight, we’d really had a great time and it was so good to re-connect with my brother and niece again. There were also some lessons learned from this trip:

  • I’m glad our summer holiday this year will not involve any flights.
  • I need to get better (newer) walking shoes before the summer.
  • Jubilees are better watched on TV than experienced live. It was just too crowded and we avoided being where the celebrations were for most of the time.
  • If I do get Covid, then I must have gotten it while in London. Time will tell.
  • Clubbing – been there and done that for the most part. It is only fun when you like and know the music but the club we went to (despite a nice dance beat) only played 3 songs I knew in the 3 hours we were there. If it hadn’t been for the girls and seeing them enjoy themselves, I would have left way sooner.
  • I wish I could go out to a London theatre every week.
  • It’s always fun having some alone time with one of my kids.

I have no idea when, but I am already looking forward to my next London trip.

Paws and plans

I was driving into work yesterday morning and I was about to clear smudges off my windscreen, when I saw what they actually were. I stopped myself and smiled and drove to the parking garage where I tried to capture those smudges with my phone camera. It’s difficult for the camera to actually focus on smudges on glass…

Yep, cat paws! Not from my cats, I don’t think, they don’t climb cars, but I have seen neighbourhood cats on parked cars here regularly and these prints must be from one of them. Soooo cute! On my way home, I alas did need to clean the windshield, so they’re sadly gone now.

We have a long weekend coming up (Pentecost) which means we have Monday off and I have taken Friday off work as well. Some years ago, when Junior was finishing his secondary school, he and I spent some time together in London and he got to pick all the things he wanted to do. It was a nice little early graduation gift for him and at the time I decided that when my daughter graduates, I would do the same with her. In the summer of 2020, at the height of Corona, she graduated from an intermediate level secondary school and there was no chance whatsoever that we could even do a London trip. She went on to do two more years of a higher lever secondary school and she just finished her exams last week. We are still waiting for results but she has been doing really well in school, so I think she will be fine. No matter what, now was the time to do her London trip, I figured.

We booked plane tickets three weeks ago and we’re flying off to London tomorrow evening and returning Monday evening (June 6th). We’ll be staying with my brother again and, as chance has it, it will be his birthday that weekend too! I don’t think I’ve celebrated a birthday with him in person since we were teens. My niece is doing her final exams too and will probably be studying a lot but we will at least get to see her as well.

Like Junior at the time, mini me gets to pick what we do in London. She chose Mamma Mia as the musical she wants to go to, she wants to wander through Harrods and she wants to do a museum. We picked the Victoria and Albert museum, which I first visited during my last trip to London for Uncle Vanya and loved. Of course, there will be scones and Oxford Street (she likes to (window) shop) and she wants to go up Tower Bridge and we’ll be doing more, but we’ll figure it all out as we go along. When I called my brother three weeks ago about the dates he said, “Ah, that means you will be here for the Jubilee weekend!” I hadn’t realized that, so we may go with the flow with that as well.

I work from home tomorrow and then we fly in the evening. We’re both very excited for our tip.

More Richard favourites

Michele added a second part to her Richard Armitage favourites challenge (and Armidreamer also participated). When I start a challenge I usually mean to finish it (see my answers to the first part) and so here it is. I needed to think on my answers for a bit and they may still sound rambling but that’s because these are not questions I necessarily think about a lot and so I don’t have any clear cut answers either. Anyway, for what it’s worth, my two cents (or two hundred cents, given the longish answers to some of the questions)…

1 You get one day with Richard what would your itinerary consist of?

Where would this day be? In London? So much to do in London! Like go for a walk somewhere (Hampstead Heath, the South Bank, Banksy walking tour, etc.), stop somewhere for scones and tea, maybe check out a (flea) market or an awesome museum like the Portrait Gallery. Dinner in Chinatown and spend the evening at the theatre or in the cinema, followed by a nightcap somewhere in a pub.

If he came here to The Netherlands, I’d take him on a little bike tour, walk through Utrecht (or really any of the old towns with canals, like Leiden, Delft, Gouda), make sure he ate some raw herring, take in an art museum (Amsterdam has some really famous ones with Rembrandts and Van Goghs), have dinner somewhere nice, preferably outside, in the evening go to the improv English language comedy club Boom Chicago in Amsterdam (gosh, I should go there again anyhow, haven’t been in 25 years or so! For American readers, Seth Meyers spent some time doing stand up there).

Either any of that or we just spend the day reading and puttering around the house or in the garden, before an evening out to dinner, theatre, comedy club, whatever. I’m not really particular, I’d give him options and let him pick or maybe he’d have ideas that I’d never think of.

2 What book adaptation would you pitch to Richard to star in and why?

Nope, nothing I could think of at first. Another romantic (preferably offbeat) hero would be nice after all the action and murder stuff he’s done, but I have no specific book heroes in mind. But then something did suddenly spring to mind! Speaking of an offbeat romantic hero, and a comedy to boot: he might be lovely as Don Tillman, the genetics professor with Asperger’s syndrome in The Rosie Effect. Don is sometimes compared to Gregory Peck in looks, I think Richard could pull that off too.

3 Richard has a charitable heart what cause is near and dear to you that you would ask Richard to support?

Human rights / the plight of refugees are usually closest to my heart, so organisations like UNHCR or UNICEF, SOS Children’s Villages or War Child. Those are big names and big organisations. Supporting something smaller and more local for children’s rights or refugees or the homeless or food banks would be fine too.

4 What flaw of Richards would you like to see him work on?

The need to please everyone.

5 Which of these ill fated characters did you relate to and why: Lucas North / Raymond DeMerville / Daniel Miller / Thorin Oakenshield

I can relate to Daniel Miller in that he grew up caught between two cultures but that never was explored deeply, just mentioned, so no real journey to follow him on there. Of these characters, I liked (and therefore related to) Thorin Oakenshield best, the fierce, honourable protecter of his people, trying to find a home again.

6 In a scavenger hunt where the end destination is your home what three clues would you give Richard to find you?

I’d need only one clue to guide him to the town I live in: Dutch cheese.

7 What three words would you describe your interest in a fandom?

Information and enthusiasm in my own quiet niche.

8 John Thornton embodies______________

Honesty, fairness and love.

9 What’s your favorite item of clothing that Richard wears?

Costume or private life? Again, I’m not very particular about his clothes, I’d be more particular about how his hair looked or whether he has a beard/stubble or is clean-shaven. As the question is about clothes, I will say that I really liked his look in The Crucible, especially that black coat turned up at the collar…

I like him a bit ruffled in a simple dark shirt…

…he cleans up nicely in a suit too…

… and I’m very partial to a turtleneck as well…

10 Complete this sentence: “I’m a Richard Armitage fan because he________________”

…. feels like a kindred spirit, more so than any other actor I know.

That’s all, folks! 🙂